Successful Entrepreneurs Failing Forward


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Life Area: Professional

Topic: Failing forward

Successful Entrepreneurs Failing Forward


Steve Jobs failed forward. So has Jeff Bezos, Oprah Winfrey and Bill Gates … so have each of the other 8 entrepreneurs included below. Each of these individuals struggled through depression, business failures, debt and doubt on their path to becoming the successes we know them as today:


Jeff Bezos

Prior to starting Amazon, Jeff Bezos floated a few different ideas. Among them was a shopping site known as zShops which failed.


Fred Smith

We all have heard this story of FedEx founder Fred Smith: in college, Fred pitched the idea for his future company on an assignment for which his professor gave him a failing grade because the idea was infeasible.


Sir James Dyson

Dyson vacuum cleaners has evolved to a huge business but Sir James Dyson failed forward to get there. Before finding his footing, Dyson worked on more than 5,000 prototypes and depended on his wife’s income to stay afloat.  


Thomas Edison

Speaking of prototypes, history knows Thomas Edison as a great inventor but he had over 10,000 failed prototypes before he invented the light bulb. His resume also includes a series of lost jobs and teachers who call him “unteachable”.


Steve Jobs

Apple was a tech giant when Steve Jobs passed-away but it wasn’t always that way. When the company was in its infancy, products like the Apple I and Lisa computers created millions in company losses. In the mid-80s, Jobs was even fired from Apple until being re-hired by the Board in 1997.


Evan Williams

Today, Evan Williams is known for founding Twitter, but he once tried to start a podcast platform that would have been known as Odeo. The platform pretty much failed before it began partly due to the fact that its release coincided with Apple’s podcast platform on iTunes.


Bill Gates

Bill Gates once started a business named Traf-o-Data to provide traffic statistics. The project ultimately failed. He went on to found Microsoft and, as they say, the rest is history.


Oprah Winfrey

Oprah is well know for forging her own place in TV as the Queen of daytime talk, however, in the beginning of her career, she was fired as a news reporter. Today her networth is over $2 billion…talk about failing forward!


Steven Spielberg

Spieldberg is one of the most successful directors in history known for his work with many billion dollar+ revenue marquee films. Before building up his production company, Amblin Entertainment, he experienced the rejection of 3 film projects as a director fresh out of USC.


Warren Buffet

The start of Warren Buffett’s failing forward was his rejection from Harvard Business School, and even Berkshire Hathaway, a business now with a market cap of $490 billion, looked set to fail. Eventually though, what seemed like a bad investment paid off in the long run.


Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen

The authors of the Chicken Soup for the Soul brand of books, first received over 144 rejections from book publishers before the book went on to sell over 500 million copies worldwide since.


When you’re feeling down, discouraged or distressed on your entrepreneurial journey, refer to this list and remind yourself that failure and negative thought are realities for entrepreneurs at every level.


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